I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” –Billy Joel
Music is a powerful force. It can be more beneficial than words or touch; it can make you feel alive and indestructible. Everyone has that song that evokes strong feelings, that “heals” them. Could you imagine a world without music? Neither could I.
A world without music is one I wouldn’t want to live in, because music really does heal the mind and body. In many cases, it can be used as a form of therapy to help reduce anxiety, depression and other negative emotions in patients, both young and old. With this idea in mind, a man by the name of Dan Cohen created Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings music to the lives of the elderly around the country.
Music & Memory started taking form in 2006 after Dan noticed that many nursing homes weren’t using music as a therapeutic tool. A countless amount of research has been done on the positive affects of music on cognitive disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to Music & Memory, a personalized playlist can “tap deep memories not lost to dementia” and can “bring clients back to life.”
After Dan volunteered at a local nursing home, he realized just how much good the music was doing for the elderly and wanted to take it across the state of New York. By 2010, Music & Memory became a non-profit and has been steadily growing ever since.
One of the most miraculous stories came from Henry, who was a patient in a nursing home who was almost nonresponsive to people. He talked only when he absolutely needed too, and spent the majority of his time slumped over in his chair. After the introduction of a customized music playlist, Henry started to talk more and would sing and dance, something the home had never seen before.
To know that music has the power to make dementia patients nostalgic, dance and sing is miraculous. Not only does it make the caregiver and family members of the patient feel like they have their loved ones back, patients become happier and closer with their family members again.
So how can you help? Music & Memory is always looking for donations, volunteers, caregivers and nursing home professionals to help grow the Music & Memory name. You can give monetary gifts, gently used iPods and other media devices, and be trained to care for elderly patients and create playlists that will benefit the patient the most. For more ways you can help, visit the For Volunteers page.